Chapter 18 : Harry's Dilemma
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Harry sat up on his bed. He felt chilled and again saw he was without his shirt. His scars, which had been healed for several weeks, were bleeding again, the blood running down his chest and onto his pants. Unconcerned he stood too quickly and had to grab the headboard to right himself.
"Here take my arm" he heard a strong voice tell him.
Out of the corner of his eye Harry saw a tall man with long grayish black hair. In his left hand was a staff which he leaned on for support. "Thanks" he replied steadying himself until the dizziness passed. "Albus is that you?"
"No but I am flattered" he answered.
"Then who are you?" wondered Harry. He appeared to be old but not old, frail but strong. Harry felt a thin arm under the cloak the old man wore but he was strong enough to support Harry's weight.
"Someone who has existed for a long, long time. Now tell me why are you here?"
Harry stared into the piercing blue eyes. He saw wisdom in them and concern for him. "I am a lost soul" he finally answered.
"As am I. We are kindred spirits. What brings you here to this place at this time?"
"To fix the problems I created. To save the lives of those I lost. It was because of me they have passed on."
"You can barely stand. How can you save them if you can't save yourself?"
Harry pondered the question as he sat back onto the bed. He was tempted to lie back down and sleep but he knew if he did he probably would never wake up. His guilt forced him to face the reality of his dying soon if he could not stop it. "Can you help me please?" he begged.
The old man waved his staff over Harry as he leaned back onto the bed. He felt water falling on him like a gentle rain cleansing the two open wounds. A warm breeze blew him dry and the sore spots magically healed. "Thank You Sir" Harry said holding out his hand.
"Not at all my Son" he replied helping Harry to his feet.
"You called me your Son. Are we related in some way?"
"I do not believe so. But in the Magical World anything is possible. A few minutes ago you said you wished to save the lives of some people who have passed on. Who are they to you?"
Harry went on to explain the Family and friends who died and why he wished this. The old man patiently waited for him to finish before speaking. "Look around you. What do you see?"
"The room I have had to spend a lot of time in. The last seven years I have woken up in here numerous times for a variety of reasons."
"Do you wish to change this too?" he asked Harry.
"Absolutely" Harry answered thinking this man was to show him how he could accomplish this.
"Is there anything else you see?" he asked.
Harry took a second look. Now he could see a frozen Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. They were mad at Andromeda Tonks. Kreacher was standing in between Minerva and Kingsley either bringing or leaving with them. "We must go this way" he told Harry as he exited the room.
"Guys I will be right back" he said to their unmoving forms. He touched Ginny's cheek before walking out.
* * *
After handing Teddy to Hermione Ginny went to the bed she and Harry shared. The sheets and blankets were bloodstained like before but his clothes lay there too. She felt around praying he was there somewhere. Unsuccessful she returned to Hermione's and Ron's side. "No luck. I feel like he is here with us somehow."
"Mistress the Minister and the Headmistress wish me to return them to their Offices to begin a search" Kreacher told her. He was standing between them ready to apparate them back.
"We can start here. Maybe he left us a clue" replied Hermione. "Now last time he went first to ... "
A quick gasp made Hermione stop. Ginny had her palm on her right cheek. "It was Harry! He put his hand here. It was still warm. Everybody spread out. Maybe we can find him. Harry? Harry please stop!!"
From the outside it must have looked ridiculous seeing five people and one House Elf moving around waving their arms calling the name of 'Harry!!' repeatedly. Twice they made their way around the room searching for him.
Andromeda Tonks was standing in the center of the room holding her Grandson. A part of her wished they would not find him, but on the other hand wanting them to be reunited. "Any luck?" she asked the Minister who she guessed the least likely to hex her.
"None at all. He can apparate like Albus so he could be anywhere. And he can disillusion himself too. This seems impossible" he answered.
"Harry did not give up on us and we aren't going to either. What did he say before he left?" demanded Hermione.
"That it was impossible. And he promised not to. The last things were 'Probably not a good idea' before he tapped my head saying I would remember. What is it I will remember?" Andy responded.
"I am guessing so you will know this was your idea. The blame and the guilt will be yours not his." Minerva was staring coldly at Andromeda Tonks who looked away. "You used me to get to Harry. Asking questions about how he felt, pretending to care. Instead you wanted to know how to get to him. I would throw you out of my Castle if it wasn't for the Minister probably wanting to press charges against you."
"Me? What did I do?" she indignantly asked.
"Fraud, Slander, and possibly murder if anyone different dies" replied Hermione. "And if we never see Harry again I challenge you!! I stood up to your Sister Bellatrix!! I owe her for what she did to us and will gladly take it out on you."
"Hermione she is mine" Ginny softly said in a voice you would swear came from Voldemort himself. "If my future husband does not come back I have nothing to live for. I will hunt you for the rest of my life and I will kill you wherever you are. Nothing will stand in my way for revenge not only for Harry but all those who will die because of you!!"
"Minister you must protect me!! All I did was ask him!! Can you help me please?" Andy pleaded to Kingsley as she cowered behind him.
"Place your memories in here" he said gesturing to the pensieve on the table. Andy's hands were trembling as she did this, letting the silvery vapors touch the water which turned grey as it began to spin.
Kingsley and Minerva pulled Andy in with them to view the memories. Ron accepted Teddy from her before she did this. He hoped this might give them clues for where Harry would go but if he was moving into the past it would be impossible to follow.
Three splashes indicated the trip into the pensieve concluded. Hermione saw Kingsley extract and duplicate the memories before returning them. "Mrs. Tonks I suggest you say nothing else until you contact your solicitor" he stated.
Andy opened her mouth to speak but couldn't. Hermione this time was the one who prevented this. She took Teddy from Ron's arms and handed him to his Grandmother before joining Ginny and Ron in walking away to talk privately.
Reluctantly Andy left with Minerva and Kingsley. She saw what she said and did not believe she was guilty of anything more than wanting him to bring back the ones who died.
* * *
The old man and Harry approached the Great Hall. "Look at this " Harry said causing his friend to pause. "This is what I caused. All these people. My goal is to save them." He waved his wand making them all disappear.
"So you wish them to never have lived? Or did you kill all these people yourself? My boy you are making me regret saving you" he replied.
"They died because of me!!" Harry yelled. "Because of my mistakes!!!"
The old man waved his staff and the wall reappeared. "You were very young when some died. Even before you were born for those" he said pointing at several names on the left. "Let us leave it here for now. If for no other reason than to remind me." The huge doors opened and he and Harry went in.
Harry was facing his worst nightmare. Clustered around them were the Families of the ones who died. To his right were the Weasleys kneeling around Fred. Ginny was lying next to him sobbing, her head on his chest. Ron and Hermione were barely standing leaning on each other for support. To his left he saw Remus and Tonks lying side by side with the Headmistress standing over them.
The old man walked among the unmoving scene taking it all in. "Yes Harry you are right. All this is horrible. I can see why you wish to change this."
"Dozens have died struggling against Tom Riddle! Over 50 here alone. I bet there are others not on that wall" he bitterly answered.
"No doubt you are right. The fight against evil has not stopped and probably never will. Are you to be the one to travel back and forth fixing these atrocities? How can you do this? To determine who lives and who dies?"
"Easy. The evil ones must be killed."
"But you said you caused all this. So this means you must die also. Whenever you are ready I shall do it for you. It shall be quick and painless" the old man said holding his staff pointing at Harry. He waited as Harry closed his eyes prepared to die again for his friends. "Not as clear cut as you thought is it? Perhaps we should continue our journey."
Harry opened his eyes to see they were outside and at night. He recognized his home in Godric's Hollow. Two shadowy figures slipped through the gates and entered. A green flash told him his Father was dead. Two more upstairs said the same about his Mother and Voldemort. He began to shake reliving their deaths but glad Tom Riddle was temporarily out of the picture when they came back out.
"Master that was wise. Killing the child first. It prevented the parents from sacrificing themselves to save him. Now the problem is solved with the Longbottom's all dead too." He pulled his hood back to reveal a hooked nose and greasy dark hair.
"Severus it was. Now we are off to the Castle. Dumbledore will trouble us no longer."
"B B B But that's not how it happened" Harry stammered. He watched the two Wizards disappear knowing they were off the Hogwarts to confront the Headmaster.
"You said you wanted to change things and that this was your fault. You have died and are not to blame from here on out."
"But the prophesy!! I am the one to stop him!!"
"Then you must be willing to accept the consequences."
Harry deliberated while the old man waited. He thought of what the Headmaster told him about doing what was right. "We must let this play out. Perhaps another opportunity to fix things?"
The old man waved his staff again, showing this time a single person enter. Three more green flashes and a massive explosion happened causing debris to rain onto the street. He stood with his head down regretting not saving his parents. The noise of an engine told him Hagrid was arriving. The half giant entered his home and returned gently carrying a crying baby Harry.
"Shush now. You'll be safe. I'll see to that. Sirius should have come. No matter we are off to the Headmaster." Hagrid climbed back onto the flying motorcycle he borrowed from Sirius after receiving the patronus from Professor Dumbledore. Gently laying Harry in the sidecar he gunned the engine and took off down the street. Pushing a large red button on the handlebars allowed him to lift off and head Northeast.
Harry shrugged. "Not really. The next 10 years of my life were filled with abuse from my cousin and his parents. His Mother and mine were sisters."
"Do we need to address these also?" he asked preparing to wave his staff.
"No. I was very unhappy there. At the time I knew it was difficult but it could have been much worse. Both my Uncle and my cousin were way bigger than I am. As mad as they got I was not seriously hurt. No we can leave this be."
"As you wish" he replied with a hint of a smile on his face. Waving his staff again took them to the Burrow where they witnessed the conversation between Harry and Ginny before the Wedding. Harry saw the moods change with Ginny as they discussed the charade he wanted to 'protect' her. She seemed ready to hex him until he gave her the ring, explaining it was his Mothers. While she was unhappy at not sharing it she understood why he felt the way he did and the unspoken promise of another ring after they safely returned.
"What a coward!" Harry bitterly said as the scene ended with Ron bursting in.
"There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect the ones we love" he was told in reply. "It is plain to see how much you love her. To willingly walk away, possibly never to see each other again, is something I don't know I would have been strong enough to do."
"Thanks. Hermione and Ron both told me that much later. Unfortunately I had too long to brood on it."
"Then we are in luck. Here time stands still. Now let us continue in a different direction. Just for the sake of argument what if she came with you. What would have happened differently?"
"Well, the first thing is I would have been happy. I could watch over her. Things had to be bad here at the Castle."
The scene now changed to the Room of Requirement. It was similar to what Harry saw when he, Ron, and Hermione followed Neville into it. A shimmer passed over things and he now saw a room littered with bodies instead of clusters of people.
"Only four more to find" a tall black clad man said.
"The worst of them. Have no fear dear Brother the Dark Lord has been onto them. Every time the underage one uses magic he knows it. The game will be over soon. Yes the one is very smart hiding them but it shall end. They are near Malfoy Manor. Greyback is there waiting. He will have a satisfying meal on them, leaving only Potter. The 'Chosen One' will be broken watching his friends die and will not resist."
Harry pulled out his wand sending spells at the two Carrows which passed right through them. He watched Amycus kick the body of Neville as he passed.
"This is a potential future. Miss Weasley was not here to help lead them."
"So if she is with me they all die?" a stunned Harry asked.
"Possibly. And she could lead to your capture. Didn't you mention that to her?"
"Yes. I could see Hermione trying to cover up her magic. No she can't come. To be defenseless to be with me is wrong. One slip on her part and we are caught."
The old man nodded again. Harry felt the scene shift this time (he was getting used to it like apparating) and he was back in the Great Hall. He saw himself staring at the two fights taking place between Bellatrix Lestrange with Hermione, Luna and Ginny at one end, and Tom Riddle with Professor Slughorn, Professor McGonagall, and Kingsley Shacklebolt. Everything froze as they walked among the combatants.
"Time is passing very slowly. See the start of the killing curse being directed at Miss Weasley? Look at it traveling almost at the speed of light. It grazes her shoulder cutting off some of her hair. She is fortunate not to have died here this day."
"Another mistake of mine. I did not know which way to go. To confront Tom or protect my friends."
"All are doing fine without you. Had you arrived sooner Miss Lestrange might have killed all three in the distraction. No your timing was good. And you did finish the job you came back to do."
"How did you know I came back? Wait ... You can read my mind can't you?"
"Something like that. The two evil ones die next, not counting yourself. Are you still included or no?"
"From the standpoint of not doing enough and making the wrong decisions yes. But no I did not personally kill any of them" Harry said gesturing to the room.
"I did not believe you did. In our lives we have to make choices without the luxury of going back and changing them. We live with second guessing ourselves over the littlest of things. In your case though these are decisions which impacted the Wizarding World not just yourself. Imagine if you had died with your parents."
He waved his staff and all around them was now charred boulders. "Tom Riddle and Severus Snape would have come here. I am guessing with their allies not being foolish enough to confront Albus Dumbledore alone. The results we can see. Hogwarts is gone. If you wish we can make time flow backwards and see what took place but I think this speaks for itself."
"We can't let this happen!!!" yelled Harry heartbroken at the wreckage.
"And it won't because you lived. Here is another possible future." They moved to Privit Drive he saw the seven Harry's lined up ready to leave, his best friends aiding him in escaping to the Burrow. As Mad-Eye Moody yelled "Go" the skies rained down with Death Eaters. Hagrid barely made it off the ground with the help of a cloud of smoke conjured by Mr. Weasley. Through the skies they flew, passing from cloud to cloud until landing in the pigpen at the Burrow. Ginny rushed up and helped them get inside to wait for the rest. Both fell asleep in front of the fireplace and did not wake up until the morning with the sound of Mrs. Weasley crying. On the table spread out was the Morning Edition of the Daily Prophet which read:
Slaughter in the Muggle World!!
This paper is sad to report that a massive battle took place in Little Whining last night. Dead are Kingsley Shacklebolt, Arthur Weasley, Bill Weasley, his fiance Fleur Delacour, Fred Weasley, George Weasley, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, and Mad Eye Moody. The only ones who escaped were Harry Potter, Hagrid the half giant, and Mundungus Fletcher. The bodies of 19 Death Eaters were also recovered leading to speculate the whereabouts of Mr. Potter.
"NO!!!"screamed Ginny who pushed Harry away.
"I don't blame her" Harry quietly said watching this scene transpire. By now he was getting used to these possible realities but it still hurt.
"Would you have had the strength to go on? Without your best friends? Maybe. And Miss Weasley might have blamed you for this. Or maybe not."
"Fortunately this did not happen. Yes George was hurt and we lost Mad Eye but the rest survived. Are these my lessons? To learn that as bad as it was it might be worse?"
"To live is to learn. From our successes and our failures. Here you can witness the effects of changing things without actually doing them. But I warn you not to continue because at some point you will wish to go back and try to make the changes permanent. Then the real problems begin. Where do you stop is the question. And remember too that a change made now affects what happens five minutes from now." The old man waved his staff and a hundred chess boards appeared. "I will take white and move first. Kings pawn to king four."
Harry watched the pawn in front of the king move two spaces forward on every set. "I was never very good at this." He moved the pawn in front of his queen two spots forward to stop in front on his opponent thinking every game would do the same.
"No Harry. A hundred sets, and hundred games. Each one different."
Puzzled Harry went board by board responding in different ways. When he got through all he realized his adversary had moved also leaving him to reply. For hours and hours they played stretching into uncounted days until the matches were completed.
"My complements Harry. You beat me seven times. I have lost very few times ever."
"Thanks. Now I can see what you mean about how every situation is different. Some of the ones lost were very important to me. I feel I must try. My Godson lost his parents and I do not want him to grow up like I did. In a home without love."
"Very well Harry. But before you do I want to show you one final future which was brought on by the tiniest of things."
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